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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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The First 100 Years 1788-1888 (continued)

The Rose Hill Packet was quickly joined by many other small craft. Governor Phillip sent to England for two small schooners which were despatched in sections. The majority of the new boats, however, were built by the sixteen shipwrights at the government shipyard on Sydney Cove's western shore. Between 1789 and 1833 they provided a regular row and sail ferry service on the Parramatta River, complete with license and time-table. The demand for these sturdy little craft continued to grow. Kable and Company built its first ship, The Endeavour in 1801; it was a 30 ton vessel and carried a crew of six. By 1804 two more had been completed, a 37 ton sloop. The Hawkesbury and the 18 ton Speedwell. Boats were made from local timber and took a variety of shapes and forms. The Experiment at Sydney, for example, was a twenty-four metre craft propelled by four horses working a capstan connected to a paddle wheel.[9] For some time, these small vessels represented the only reliable link between Sydney and the farms which supplied it. They carried foodstuffs and stores to and from the fertile Hawkesbury Valley, later coal from the Hunter Valley and eventually cedar, ironbark and bluegum from the forests along the coast.

The incentive to build larger vessels came as early as the 1790s when fur seals were found on the islands of Bass Strait, and sperm and bay whales were discovered in the southern seas. The colonists, however, were not the first to exploit this new industry. Despite the fact that trade and shipping regulations had been relaxed for vessels tied to certain coastal trades, whaling was subject to strict control. There were few men in the colonies who could afford to finance a 'risky and costly voyage'[10] to the whaling grounds, and there were even fewer available seamen to man the craft. The colonists had to content themselves with the shore-based capture of black or bay whales. These animals seasonally came in close to the shore and entered river estuaries. In the Derwent River and Twofold Bay they were slaughtered in their hundreds, but even this industry was crippled by British high protective duties on the import of colonial goods. Thus 'for at least a generation, England's and New England's ships ruled the whaling grounds near Australia and New Zealand'.[11]

These early days of whaling and sealing were nonetheless of great benefit to shipping in the colonies, particularly to Van Diemen's Land. Hobart Town became an important port for the French, British and American whalers who farmed the southern oceans. The foreign fleets called in to refit and refurbish and, consequently, 'an expertise in sail making, rope works, boat building and repair resulted' from servicing these craft.[12] Armed with practical skills, shipwrights felled the local Tasmanian pine and blue gums and pitsawed them by hand to build dozens of small craft and, eventually, full rigged barques, schooners, and brigantines. According to Pemberton in his book on Australian coastal shipping, 'three hundred and thirteen vessels were built between 1812 and 1825 on the Derwent shoreline alone, and a further 132 at northern Tasmanian yards'.[13] On a local scale, a small fleet of ketches began to trade around the Derwent and surrounding inlets, transporting goods to outlying farmers, and larger craft began to ferry goods to New South Wales.

Sydney shipping was growing at the same time, stimulated not only by the influx of the foreign whaling vessels but also by a new economic prosperity. A similar concentration of expertise in boat building and repair developed, and the number and size of Australian owned craft grew. According to John Bach 'the larger vessels were permitted on the condition that they would not go beyond the limits of the territory, but since these were then defined so as to include most of the islands of the western Pacific, the owners were able legally to obtain skins, oil, sandalwood, pork and other products from within the area and bring that product back to Sydney for sale'.[14] Thus in 1805 a ship as large as the 185 ton King George was launched. By 1806 nearly twenty colonial ships were sailing Bass Strait and many vessels worked the Hawkesbury grain trade, or plied coal and cedar from the Hunter River or along the coast.[15] Gradually, other craft reached the size where they could visit various islands off the mainland and others ventured as far afield as New Zealand.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Kable and Company

People in Bright Sparcs - Bach, John; Inglis, Andrea; Pemberton, B.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 447 - 448, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher